Manor Moments

Note-able Achievement – Resident Performs with Hershey Symphony Orchestra

August 2018

Helen Johnstone posing with her violin at the Hershey Symphony Orchestra Cornwall Manor resident Helen Johnstone has played the violin for most of her life and the last four years with the Hershey Symphony Orchestra. “Music has always been part of my life. I began playing violin in a string class in junior high,” Helen shares. She continued playing through high school and college and later on in community orchestras while raising her family. The violin she first played belonged to her grandmother and then her mother. “Back when I was in school, women chose careers of a nurse, teacher or secretary. I knew I could use a degree in music all my life and enjoy it, which I have done.”

Helen and her husband, Parker, were living in North Carolina when they were considering a move to Cornwall Manor. At that time, Helen was a violinist in North Carolina’s Brevard Philharmonic. Donald Portnoy, Brevard’s Artistic Director and Conductor knew Sandra Dackow, who is the Hershey Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director.

After moving to Cornwall Manor in November 2014, Helen and Parker attended the February 2015 Hershey Symphony concert. After the show, Helen went backstage to say hello to Dr. Dackow. “I met Parker in the lobby with the music for the next concert in my hand! Sandra invited me to play with Hershey and I joined that night,” Helen said.

Helen rehearses weekly and performs throughout the year in a season that includes six subscription concerts, an annual Fourth of July concert at the Hershey Medical Center, a benefit gala and several special performances at community locations at the holidays and in the summer. One of the Orchestra’s summer performances was at Cornwall Manor for an outdoor Fountain Concert around the Freeman Community Center Fountain in July.

She recalls some of her favorite moments with the Orchestra have been traveling to New York City to perform at Alice Tully Hall and performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with Chorus. “I’ve really enjoyed my experience with the Hershey Symphony Orchestra.” There are more than 70 people in the all-volunteer Orchestra, and performer ages range from high school and up. The Orchestra’s members come from Eastern and Central Pennsylvania. Helen has met many fascinating people through the orchestra and has made many friends through everyone’s common love of music. “I’ll be celebrating my 80th birthday next year. I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity.”

When Helen isn’t busy with the Orchestra, she has plenty of other things to keep her occupied. She volunteers in Cornwall Manor’s handbell choir, Zerr Chapel choir and enjoys the book club, neighborhood gatherings in The Woods and she keeps in touch with her large family of 9 children, 17 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.